Showing posts with label ile d'oleron. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ile d'oleron. Show all posts

Tuesday 30 June 2015

Hot on Ile d'Oleron

Tuesday 30 June 2015

We're at a large aire at Le Chateau on Ile d'Oleron.  It's gone 2200 and we're still sat outside in the very warm, still air.  The temperature hit a max of 38'C today and did we feel it!  When stepping out of the van it was like someone had opened an oven door, fanned by a hot breeze.  This aire is an ex-campsite, about 100 pitches, all with electric hook up, plus toilets, showers and fresh water, and all included in the price of €10.50.  It would cost about 3 times that much in the UK for a similar site, with the beach just across the road.  The aire's less than half full, mainly elderly French, all as brown as berries, eating well and having a good time - and good for them!

We woke at about 0900 this morning and after breakfast packed up the van and pulled up at the service point to empty waste and take on fresh water.  I'd paid €2 for water but the station wasn't working - what a rip off!  So I used the grey waste to flush the toilet cassette and we headed off - today's drive was a long 5 hours, but it would get us to where we plan to spend the next week. We stopped off at a Super U for food, wine and diesel then hit the road.  The journey wasn't too bad, just long and hot.  We stopped of on the way for lunch, enjoyed sat at a concrete picnic table in the shade, just off the busy road - it was better than it sounds!

On arrival at Oleron we realised with the heat that we'd need more water so I stopped off on the way to pick some up.  We arrived at the aire and this time my credit card was accepted for 2 nights; the last time we visited here none of my cards were accepted and we ended up at a different aire, but it was still a good find.  First stop was for a fresh water top up.  I had a banging headache, dehydration I think, so kept the fluid intake going.  We took a pitch quite close to the showers.  I hooked up the electric and when I checked found the polarity (live & electric) were reversed. Luckily I have a special plug in adaptor to correct this so Cathy put the kettle on while I set up the awning, we were going to need it.  Despite the heat, a good cup of tea always hits the spot!  We wasted no time in crossing the road to the beach.  It's a thin stretch of sand and, as we found out, a shallow and very muddy sea!  This whole stretch is where the majority of the oyster beds are located.  So the swim wasn't great but it was very cooling.  Cathy had a read while I went for a walk to the end of the beach and back, up to an old Napoeonic fort.  

Back at the van we had a cold drink then enjoyed the solar-heated showers, although it was still very hot out, so we were still leaking after the shower!  I prepared a Greek salad, which we had with pork kebabs, sausage and some carrot salad, plus a couple of glasses of rosé.  It's cooled down quite a lot now but I think it'll be very warm in the van tonight, so sleeping might be a challenge.  But at least we're chilling out and enjoying making camp for a couple of nights.  We'll probably move on in a couple of days, do some sightseeing on the island and then find another site for a few nights, to take us through the weekend.  But the plans can wait for another day......

Tuesday 11 June 2013

A perfect day

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Today has been a perfect day - a perfect beach day.  We're still parked up on the Aire just outside St Denis. It rained on and off last night, although it remained warm.  This morning I headed off into the village to get some breakfast - croissants and a banette.  I wanted to go into the Bar/Tabac for 'Un Creme' on the way back, but there were a few 'local old boys' in there so I lost my nerve. Post-breakfast washing up done, Cathy had a good spring clean of the van - bedding taken out and given a good shake, all floors swept and cleaned, toilet & shower scrubbed - I supervised. After that strenuous activity we decided to head into the village to explore more.  We came across the morning market in its last throes so quickly bought up a few things - rotisserie chicken, Pineau, rose wine, bread, pizza (for tomorrow's breakfast!) and goat's cheese. We brought these back to the van and I made up a salad of tomatoes, onions, red pepper, garlic, the remains of our breakfast bread, Anglesey sea salt, black pepper and olive oil.  We left this to infuse and headed back towards the village.

By this time it was a bit drizzly but still warm. We headed down to the beach to one side of the port and, with the prevailing wind from the south west, we sat by the dunes which provided some shelter. There was a group of French school children learning to Kayak close in and we watched them for a while, even understanding most of what the instructor was saying.  This was mostly because he shouted slowly! After an hour or so there we walked past the harbour to the beach on the other side.  During this transit the clouds disappeared and, finally, the hot sun shone down upon us - hallelujah! We found a lovely warm spot in the soft sand and crashed out.  As the mizzle and mist had lifted, we realised we could see La Rochelle in the distance, with the bridge to Ile de Re and the island just to the left of that.  While Cathy sunbathed I went for a walk along the beach and sat on some granite rocks to watch the tide roll in.   We found loads of stones with holes right through them and collected some to take home; on our deck we have a collection of similar stones and encourage visitors to choose one to take home, as a stone with a hole brings good luck.  You have to look at the stones and choose the one that 'calls' to you.

With such fierce, coastal sunshine we were soon feeling the effects of an afternoon with no suntan lotion (it was raining when we left the van), so decided to head back to the Marina for a beer and some people watching. Refreshed, we stopped off at a small but well-stocked mini-market to top up with a few essentials.  Back at the van I braved the site showers, which were hot, powerful and clean, something we haven't found on some of the expensive campsites.  Dinner was the salad I made earlier plus the rotisserie chicken - nice and simple, no cooking.  Washing up done, chairs and "krypton-factor" table put away, we're now sat inside the van in total peace and quiet - no TCPs shouting at each other across the site!  Cathy is reading and her beach hut lights are shining on the dashboard!

It's been a very relaxing day after a few stressful ones and has made us realise that short hops with some downtime is essential.  Tomorrow we continue our journey north - we're heading for Tours and hopefully a visit to Villandray Chateau, with a 25,000sq metre potager, plus formal gardens....that is if "That Woman" in the Garmin knows where it is.  If not the Wallace & Gromit voice of the iPhone NavFree satnav will get us there.  I took some photos with the iPhone today, but can't upload these until we get home and I can upload them to the MacBook.

We've also made a decision on whether or not to buy our own motorhome - was it thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate 'No' in Roman times?

Monday 10 June 2013


Monday 10 June 2013

We're parked up on a large Aire just outside the village of St Denis d'Oleron, on the Ile d'Oleron, an island on the Atlantic coast, between Rochefort and Royan.  It's lovely to be beside the seaside again - it's where we belong.  I think our next trip will be coast hopping rather than inland.
Ile d'Oleron is joined to the mainland by a bridge just north of Marennes.  It's France's largest island after Corsica, a laidback, unaffected fishing island and coastal resort. It's a peaceful retreat of a patchwork of little villages, vineyards, pine forests and gleaming muddy tributaries lined with fishing boats.  This is exactly the sort of place we like to visit - it's similar to Ile de Re, but less pretentious - more shabby than chic but in a chilled out way.  Judging by the colour of some of the locals, the weather here has been much better than in some places.  When we arrived the sun was shining with a warm breeze.

That we made it here by 1800 is a bit of a miracle, as "That Woman" inside the Garmin decided to stop recognising lat/longs.  I thought it strange last night when I checked how long it would take to get here by plugging the lat/long into the satnav.  It said 2 hours which seemed too short but a quick look at the map showed a few dual carriageways, so I thought that was bringing the time down. When ready to leave the campsite in the morning I set up the satnav and off we went.  We had music playing as we went so I just followed "That Woman's" directions.  But after a couple of hours I felt we were heading in the wrong direction - I wasn't seeing the road signs I expected to see.  We pulled over and I checked the coordinates again for this Aire - all good.  But "That Woman" was telling us were were only 15 minutes from our destination, yet we were just south of Limoges, way off course by many tens of miles! Luckily I had downloaded a free satnav on to my iPhone - Nav Free France.  This is brilliant and was a life saver.  It even allowed us to set up as an RV to avoid the tiny roads "That Woman" kept taking us down.  We used this to redirect us to Ile d'Oleron and I also kept "That Woman" switched on (but muted thankfully) to compare - by this time she seems to have recognised where she should have sent us. However, she has this annoying habit of taking us through the centre of every town, rather than the 'Autres Directions' by-pass, plus she seemed to want to constantly take us off the main road into shortcut single-track roads.  The rest of the time she was "Re-Calculating"..... But the free iPhone satnav performed well and eventually we reached the Aire. The first one we chose was for 100 vans and facing the sea.  But entry was via credit card payment and it didn't accept my cards, so we had to find another, which is where we are now.

This Aire is very large - it takes up to 170 vans and in fact it's an ex-campsite, so has showers, toilets, washing-up facilities, washing machines and electric hook up - and all for just €9 per day - a bargain. We're pitched close to the facilities which is handy for washing up.  There are about 120 vans here at the moment but it doesn't feel like it as the pitches, although unmarked, are large.  And as it's an Aire, it's all motorhome people - friendly, relaxed and laid back - not like the TCPs!  Also, the emptying and top up facilities are easy to use and accessible - no Relais boxes or Jeton tokens needed.  We will certainly return to this one.  But the thing we love the most is that we're the only British in over a hundred, nearly all being French. And it's been lovely that they're friendly and talk to us and we try to understand and respond.

The Aire is about half a mile from the village of St Denis.  After the stress of being directed off course  by about an extra 3 hours driving, we arrived, plugged in, had a brew and then headed out to find somewhere for a well-deserved drink and dinner.  We walked down into the village, which was very quiet, but by the port and marina a couple of bars and restaurants were open.  We plopped down into chairs outside the first one, overlooking the marina.  Cathy ordered the local aperitif - Pineau, and I ordered the local 'abbaye' blonde beer called Grimbergen.  After a couple of those the world seemed a much softer place! Cathy had an entrecôte steak and I had longed-awaited Moules Frites.  We washed this down with some local Ile d'Oleron rose wine.  By then it was quite cloudy so we walked back to the van for a brew before turning in.

Oh, and to finish off today, I dropped and broke my camera! So after today there won't be any photos until we get home and I can upload from the iPhone camera.  But we hope to have a chilled out day tomorrow, even if the weather is a bit rainy it's still warm enough for shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops.  Plus Cathy is desperate to give the van a good spring clean.  We need a day with no driving.  After this relaxing day we'll be heading north, to reach Calais by Friday night.

Lovely translation!
A lovely local beer

The large Aire in St Denis